Tribes offer to cover Indian education costsJan 26, 2017 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer
The bill is is being debated this week in the Wyoming Legislature.
A bill which would incorporate American Indian education into Wyoming public school standards has passed a second round of voting.
House Bill 76, primarily sponsored by Rep. Jim Allen, R-Lander, received five "yes" votes and two "no" votes in the House Appropriations Committee. The bill was placed on General File and was debated again Thursday, this time by the Committee of the Whole.
"The bill directs the state school board to review and evaluate the social studies standards, and the fiscal note shows that cost," said Allen. "Otherwise, the legislature directs standards be reviewed every nine years."
The bill states that emphasis would be put on the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.
Last week, the House Education Committee unanimously approved the proposal with amendments removing redundant language.
Allen said the Wyoming Department of Education estimated a cost of about $24,000 to implement the bill. The cost includes expenses required to form a committee to review the standards.
Before the legislative session started, Allen had expressed concern about HB76, and any bill that requested funding.
"Every department who asks for money is going to be looked at with a very critical eye," Allen said. "I tell the tribes that if any of these bills don't pass, don't think it's anything other than fiscal."
The tribes have stepped up, however, and together made an unofficial agreement to fund the bill if necessary.
"We didn't want the fiscal note to be the reason for that bill to fail," Northern Arapaho Business Council chairman Roy Brown said. "Generally it's a really good investment for us, and both councils really."
It's important for students across the state to learn about Wyoming's tribes, he explained, and it's even more important that the information they have access to be accurate.
Based on discussions with the Shoshone Business Council, Brown said the two tribes would be willing split the initial cost to implement the bill, and cover ongoing costs after the first year.
"We equally support the bill moving forward," Brown said. "We thought it was an important enough investment to make."
Allen said the bill helps acknowledge that education about American Indian history is lacking in Wyoming. He said the lessons applied through HB76 would help develop understanding and appreciation for American Indians in the state while also reducing prejudice and discrimination against tribal members.
Allen noted that the educational modules the Wyoming Public Broadcasting Service recently produced specifically about the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes could be used as material to generate lesson plans for HB76. The legislature appropriated $110,000 in 2015 to fund the PBS project, which features a combination of videos and lesson plans.
Once the educational materials for HB76 are produced, Allen said the bill would allow for school districts to decide what methodology or instructional material should be used, or how it is delivered.
As written, the tribes would collaborate with the WDE during the process, and the tribes would approve the educational materials.
"The state is forbidden to dictate curriculum to local school districts, but school districts are expected to meet educational standards tailored to their local district," Allen said. "We want this to go forward, not be optional."